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Around 13% of the UK (3.2 million hectares) was covered by woodland in March 2020. In England, this was 10%, compared with 15% in Wales, 19% in Scotland and 9% in Northern Ireland.

This is relatively low compared with other developed countries: in most European countries, forest covers between 31-50% of land area, and this is also true of the US and Canada. For example, woodland covers 32% of France’s land area, 33% of Germany’s and 37% of Spain’s.

UK annual planting rate average was 30,000 hectares (ha) in 1989, dropping significantly in 1990 and declining even further (to about 10,000 ha a year) between 2001 and 2010. Since then, rates have varied between 5,610ha in 2016 and 13,660 ha in 2020. The majority of new trees planted in the UK are planted in Scotland. 

Policy on trees is a devolved matter, both from an agricultural and environmental perspective. This briefing includes UK wide statistics on tree planting together with details of policy in England and the devolved administrations aimed at increasing tree cover, improving biodiversity, tackling climate change and provide incomes from agroforestry. All administrations have strategies aimed at increasing tree cover. In England a consultation on an England Tree Strategy closed in September 2020. The Government is expected to publish its response in Spring 2021.

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